- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- Branden Smith’s availability for the opener against Buffalo might have had a domino effect on Georgia’s cornerback depth chart.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said after Saturday’s third preseason practice that he wants Malcolm Mitchell to be available on offense as well as defense for the Buffalo game.
“We may start integrating him into a few things offensively,” Richt said of Mitchell, who was a Freshman All-SEC receiver last season. “We’re not going to expect him to play every play, but I do want him to available to play some offense as early as the first game.”
Richt announced Saturday that Smith will not be suspended over his March arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession, returning a player who has started 17 college games to the Bulldogs’ projected starting lineup.
Mitchell moved to cornerback during spring practice to help alleviate the Bulldogs’ depth concerns in the secondary, and he intends to play both ways this fall, but Richt maintained throughout the summer that he expected Mitchell to play defense almost exclusively early in the season.
Tailback update: Richt said veterans Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel continue to lead Georgia’s tailback competition, but that true freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley will also get opportunities with the first-team offense in order to evaluate each player equally.
“They’re all getting reps with each unit so in essence, it’s really just a wide-open competition,” Richt said. “We’re trying to give everybody as equal of a chance as they can get.”
Richt said Samuel also continues to practice at fullback and expects that the senior will play both positions this fall.
“He’s kind of doing double duty right now. We had a good discussion with him just the other day,” Richt said. “The thing about playing two positions, it’s difficult if you’re talking about DB and wide receiver with Malcolm because he can’t be in both meeting rooms at the same time. He can’t make sure he’s really up to speed on every little detail, where Richard playing two positions is more possible because he’s in the same meeting room.”
Freshman missile: Speaking of running backs, Richt said freshman fullback Quayvon Hicks might be playing with a bit too much enthusiasm thus far. He compared Hicks’ desire to blast an opponent to that of former Bulldogs big-hitting safety Greg Blue, but said Hicks needs to play with a bit more control.
“He’s like a missile wanting to strike, but if the target moves enough, he’s going to miss it or he’s going to get a piece of him,” Richt said. “So he’s got to learn to get his eyes up a little bit better and be in a position to make sure that he gets a good fit and then follow through rather than just trying to knock somebody out every time.”
Rainy Saturday: Saturday morning’s practice was delayed and interrupted by rain and lightning, but Richt said it was useful in several ways.
Eventually the Bulldogs might have to play on a wet field during the season, so they got good practice playing in those conditions.
“With the rain, we were dealing with QBs having to throw a wet ball and receivers having to catch it and centers having to snap it,” Richt said. “That’s usually an issue with the wet ball and it didn’t affect them too badly. I thought they handled that pretty good.”
Starters in the lead: Richt said the starting units on offense and defense typically have had a decided advantage against the second-team units they’ve faced thus far in practice.
“I would say a majority of the plays that the No. 1 defense is in on, they’re really doing a great job. And a majority of the plays when the No. 1 offense is on the field, they’re doing very well,” he said. “You could see a big difference between the No. 2 units trying to get something accomplished on both sides of the ball.”
2dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough